Hawaii withdraws from Solar Decathlon

Team Hawaii

Team HawaiiDespite months of planning, public outreach, and fundraising for an international competition in Washington D.C., “Team Hawaii” from the University of Hawaii has withdrawn from the event.

The UH Solar Decathlon team Executive Committee, which includes participating students and members from Honolulu Community College and UH Mānoa, decided that the timing and financial challenges were too large to risk further investment without the guaranteed delivery of the house at this year’s competition.

“This was a magnificent effort to plan and build an extraordinary solar house by anyone’s standards and our effort and resources are better invested in planning for future competitions and programs directed at supporting sustainable housing in Hawaii,” said Peter Crouch, Dean of the UH Mānoa College of Engineering.

“Over the past few weeks, there have been many developments in the project that increased our budget beyond our original estimates,” said UH Mānoa student Elyse Petersen. “A combination of many factors has influenced us to announce that we will be withdrawing from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 and will now direct our efforts toward applying for the next Decathlon event in 2013.”

She said the team’s effort generated considerable energy, not only in the University system but also in the community.

Among the achievements the team higlighted:

  • Architecture students have focused on sustainable design solutions.
  • Engineering students have developed innovative solar and intelligent occupancy sensing and interactive LED light system solutions.
  • Business students have successfully engaged the community and local industry.
  • Construction Technology students have learned how to effectively communicate with Architecture and Engineering students and participate in joint projects.
  • Information and Computer Science students have developed Integrated Home Software.
  • Aquaponics students have learned how to design custom systems for sustainable living.
  • Culinary students have learned how to work with designers to make a house a fully sustainable home.

“These are all skills that we need from our future sustainable workforce leaders, but there is so much more we will learn as this project continues to the next challenge in 2013,” Petersen said. “Although Hale Pilihonua will not be presented at the Solar Decathlon 2011, the team plans on continuing the research and development energy to reach our goals of presenting clean energy and energy savings solutions to the public.”

Virginia S. Hinshaw, UH Mānoa Chancellor, said: “Although all of us are surely disappointed about being unable to complete the last crucial steps in the Solar Decathlon process, the positive news is that we’ve formed strong partnerships while developing this project that will endure and have already strengthened cooperative training, research and planning among UH campuses.

“This project has helped our University advance green technology across a wide array of academic disciplines to prepare our future graduates to be innovative in a sustainable manner,” she added.

The University of Hawaiʻi team extends its gratitude for the generous outpouring of support received from community and industry partners who have provided both monetary and in-kind donations. The team plans on assessing the work done thus far on the project in anticipation for applying to participate in the next Solar Decathlon competition and other competitions.

Michael T. Rota, Chancellor of Honolulu Community College, said: “This has been a tremendous learning practicum for all the students involved in creating the conceptual design and project plan for Hawai‘i’s entry. They learned tremendous skills in project management, fund relations, communications, as well as the practical applications from each of their respective disciplines. We honor the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment they infused into the project. This project was just the first in a series of ‘green’ building initiatives in which we will partner with our colleagues at UH Mānoa and industry partners to develop the construction workforce of the future.”

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Campus officials said they were proud that UH was selected as one of 20 universities to compete in this year’s competition.

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